There are several ways for consumers to receive assistance with their utility bills. The programs listed below outline the way utilities can work with consumers to keep services connected.
Public Utility Commission Rule 3.302(D) allows residential electric and gas customers to go on a budget payment plan, which will reduce fluctuations in your bills due to seasonal patterns of use.
- Each month you make the same payment.
- The payment is the average of the past 12 months’ charges.
- You can request a budget payment plan at any time.
- The utility will adjust your payment at 3–6 months into the plan during the first year, depending on your actual usage.
- If, 6–9 months into the first year of the plan, the utility thinks you will use 10% more electric or gas service for the rest of the year than you have so far, they may adjust your budget payment
- After the first year and every year thereafter, the new budget amount may go up or down based on your actual usage over the prior 12 months.
- If you have an overdue bill you can go on the budget payment plan and the company will make a 12-month repayment arrangement on the overdue amount. You will pay both 1/12th of your delinquency and the budget amount at the same time every month.
At the end of each budget payment year
- If you used more than you paid and the amount you owe is more than $50, you can make payments on the balance due over the next 12 months.
- If you paid more than what you owed for actual usage, the amount you overpaid can be credited to your account.
Public Utility Commission Rule 3.302(B)(5) allows residential electric, gas, and private water customers to provide a medical note to avoid disconnection or get service turned back on
- The medical note is good for 30 days (which includes a 7-day promise period)*; the utility cannot disconnect service during that time.
*You can let the utility know that a medical note is coming to avoid disconnection; the medical note has to arrive within 7 days, or the utility may disconnect service on the 8th day with no further notice
- A doctor, nurse practitioner, or physician’s assistant must provide the medical note.
- The medical note must state that without service there would be “an immediate and serious health hazard” to the account holder or someone living in the home (it should not provide information about the medical issue)
- You can provide up to 3 medical notes per year, but only 2 medical notes in a row (you need a waiver from the Public Utility Commission for more than 3 medical notes per year, or more than 2 medical notes in a row)
- If your service is already off, you must provide the medical note first before your service will be turned back on (the utility has up to 24 hours, but should turn on service as soon as possible)
- Medical notes do not exempt you from having to pay your bill; you will still have to pay for usage while the medical note is in effect.
Public Utility Commission Rule 3.302(B)(6) allows residential electric, gas, and private water customers to set up reasonable payment arrangements to avoid disconnection of service or to restore service if it already off
- It is best to try and set up a payment arrangement with your utility before your service is turned off*. Call the utility right away when you get a disconnection notice. Once your service is off, it is usually harder to negotiate a payment arrangement with the utility.
*See Budget Billing above
- When setting up a reasonable repayment plan, the utility will take into consideration your payment history, the amount of the delinquency and your current charges, whether the delinquency was caused by unforeseen circumstances and (if you offer this information) your income and when you get paid.
- When setting up a repayment plan, you should keep in mind the amount of your current charges and when they are due. You don’t want to set up an arrangement that you can’t keep.
- If your service is still on, usually the utility will want one-half of the delinquent amount on the disconnection notice and a payment arrangement on the balance, to avoid turning off your service.
- If your service has already been turned off, the utility can require half of the delinquent amount upfront (or less, if this is negotiated with the utility) to reconnect your service. You will also need to make a payment arrangement on the balance to keep your service on. PUC rule 3.307(B) allows customers to set up a 3-month arrangement on the remaining balance, but only twice per calendar year for this type of plan.
- There are no specific rules regarding the number and/or type of repayment plans that can be established; each situation is different, and the only requirement is reasonableness.
- If you are not able to negotiate a reasonable repayment plan with the utility, you can call the Department of Public Service Consumer Affairs and Public Information Office (CAPI) 7:45 am to 4:30 pm (Monday-Friday) for assistance. CAPI’s toll-free number is 1-800-622-4496.